Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Do You Work on a Smile and a Handshake?

You know I used to do that - work on a smile and a handshake. Then I got burned a few times. Now I use a letter of agreement aka contract based on one from the American Institute of Graphic Artists for creative professionals. I was worried that when I instituted the change that I would scare customers off with the legal jargon. By the way the agreement is over seven pages long, but it did not.

In my agreement I try to be as transparent as possible, covering what happens when you don't pay, what interest is assigned, when we consider a payment late, who owns the creative rights to all we do, and when we will assign additional charges and fees. I consider my agreement professional protection for both myself and for my clients.

Did I lose any clients by moving from a handshake to sign on the dotted line? No, what I did do was weed out the people who wanted to abuse me or take advantage of me. In fact I have experienced very strong growth since instituting the agreement.

It is unfortunate that designers and consultants simply must have a contract when they work professionally as there are definitely some people who intend at the very beginning to take advantage of you either in time or in not paying what they owe.

So if you have been operating on a smile and a handshake, I am here to tell you that the biggest hurdle is not getting customer to sign on the dotted line but rather changing your own mindset to require a signature and deposit before you lift a finger on a project.

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